Sunriver police and fire departments have faced major constraints at their stations on Abbot Drive.
The police department is working out of a small office building with no space to detain suspects, and the fire department doesn’t have a proper area for storage or for crews to clean off after an incident.
To address the limitations, the departments are proposing to expand the existing fire department into a public safety building that would house the police. The proposal is a priority for the Sunriver Service District, which oversees the departments, said district Administrator Debbie Baker.
“There’s some serious deficiencies,” Baker said. “The police department is basically in an office building. It doesn’t have the essential public safety features it should.”
Baker said the estimated cost for the new public safety building is between $16 million and $18 million. The district hopes to cover the cost through lodging taxes and a levy expected to be on the ballot next fall.
The district is also proposing to buy the land and existing building from the Sunriver Homeowners Association, which would streamline the construction and use of the new building, Baker said.
“We are hoping by the end of this year to have all of that figured out,” Baker said. “Then we start a timeline if we need to go to the voters to approve a capital levy.”
Sunriver Police Chief Cory Darling said his department has to improvise to make the current space work.
Rather than a private interview room for suspects or victims, officers have to use a break room and set up video and audio recording equipment, Darling said. In addition, any person placed under arrest has to be sent to Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office buildings in Bend or La Pine, since there is no room in the Sunriver Police station.
The new building would have dedicated rooms for holding and interviewing suspects, Darling said.
“I’ve been here three years and one of the goals is to make this really a professional organization,” said Darling, a former Bend Police captain who was hired in 2018. “We really need that essential facility in order to do so.”
Darling also worries about how his department would handle an emergency such as an earthquake, wildfire or massive winter storm. The current building is not equipped as an emergency center and doesn’t have coverings for the police vehicles, so the cars are often stuck in snow during the winter, Darling said.
“Right now, we don’t have any of that,” Darling said. “We don’t have backup generators, and we really don’t have a facility that really facilitates the needs of a police department.”
Initial designs of the new building show space for an emergency operation center, community room and gym for the police and fire crews.
Fire Chief Tim Moor said the current station was built in 1995 and has several aspects that are no longer compliant with national firefighting standards.
The building does not have enough space for storage, so equipment is scattered throughout the building, Moor said. And crews have to use a hose to clean off their uniforms rather than wash off in a dedicated decontamination area, which is planned in the new building.
“We don’t have any of those facilities today,” Moor said.
Moor said the new station will be more accommodating for his crew members, who work 48-hour shifts each week. Each shift has three to four firefighters.
The new building will have individual sleeping areas and a larger kitchen space for the crews to make meals. It will be much more comfortable than the current building, Moor said.
“It will fit the 2021 version of what a fire station should look like,” Moor said.